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82 Days Until Kansas Football: Previewing the Defensive Line

Will the defensive line be a cause for concern or a cause for optimism?

NCAA Football: Nicholls State at Kansas Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a little bit about the defense already, and now it’s time to start breaking it down position by position. Last season, the Jayhawks came into the season with Daniel Wise and not much else, and this year, well, there are even more unknowns. Let’s dive right in.

Cause for Concern

As just mentioned, we don’t have much of an idea at this point who is going to play where. Every position is up in the air; in fact, you could probably make the case that this is a reason for optimism considering KU’s defensive yardage and points rankings over the past few years. So, there’s really not anywhere to go but up, but is there really any hope that will happen anytime soon?

Cause for Optimism

Clint Bowen is no longer the DC, so that may be a good enough reason for many KU fans. DJ Eliot brings his 3-4 scheme to Lawrence, which will be a change from Bowen’s 4-2-5. With all of the unknowns personnel-wise, you’ll pretty much have to pin your hopes on the change at DC for any optimism.

Projected 2-deep

Absolute and complete conjecture on my part, but here’s a stab at the 2-deep.

DE - SO Malcolm Lee / SR Darrius Moragne

NT - SO Caleb Sampson / SR Jelani Brown

DE - SR Willie McCaleb / SR Codey Cole

If Sampson and Lee are who we hope they are, they’ll bring some much-needed stability to the line to build around for the next couple of seasons. Both are incoming Juco transfers with three years of eligibility, both had decent offer sheets with multiple P5 schools, and I expect both to come in and play right away.

You may find true freshmen Marcus Harris (DE) and Da’Jon Terry (DT) work their way into the rotation as well. Additionally, I think that four-star freshman Steven Parker will likely find himself as some kind of DE/OLB hybrid, so I plan on listing him with the linebackers and not the ends, although he could definitely see some snaps from a three-point stance.


The position coach for this group is Kwahn Drake, who begins his first year in Lawrence. Drake worked with DC D.J. Eliot at Colorado last year, so there’s already some familiarity there. A Nicholls State graduate, Drake has also worked as an assistant coach at Tulane, Nicholls, Memphis, and Eastern Illinois.


Once again, the defensive line is loaded with upperclassmen, but also once again, that’s because most of them are junior college transfers. There is a lot of unknown here, but there’s also a lot of promise. And contrary to recent seasons, there’s reason to believe these guys will get decent coaching to go along with a solid summer strength-and-conditioning program.

Kansas will have a solid secondary (which we’ll cover soon), but it’s hard to cover guys for more than a few seconds. Kansas will have to find some way to pressure quarterbacks, and they’ll have to do it with a bunch of fresh faces along the line.

Have some kool-aid. You’re gonna need it.